21 Singapore athletes get nod for Olympics

Zhou Yihan (left) and Lin Ye beat Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu to win the gold medal in last year's SEA Games at home. Zhou joins Feng and Yu, who will play singles as well, in the team event at the Rio Olympics. At least 24 athletes will go to Brazil, pend
Zhou Yihan (left) and Lin Ye beat Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu to win the gold medal in last year's SEA Games at home. Zhou joins Feng and Yu, who will play singles as well, in the team event at the Rio Olympics. At least 24 athletes will go to Brazil, pending confirmation from some international federations. TNP FILE PHOTO

Feng and debutantes Yu & Zhou will target another podium finish in table tennis

The team tasked with ensuring a podium finish at a third-straight Olympic Games for Singapore will be made up of the Republic's most successful Olympian, as well as two debutantes.

World No. 6 Feng Tianwei will spearhead table tennis' charge at the Aug 5-21 Games in Rio de Janeiro, while Yu Mengyu and Zhou Yihan will be competing in their maiden Olympics.

The paddlers were among the 21 athletes from six sports who received the nod from a Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC)'s selection committee chaired by Minister for Social and Family Development and SNOC president Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.

Zhou was nominated by the Singapore Table Tennis Association as the third player to complete the women's team line-up, after Feng and Yu's qualification in the singles earned Team Singapore another berth for the team event.

The 22-year-old knows her first experience on sport's grandest stage comes with a burden of expectation few other debutantes have to shoulder. She told The Straits Times from Otocec, Slovenia where they are currently competing: "It's been a dream to go to the Olympics since I was a little kid.

"Every athlete faces pressure. I'll have to do everything within my means and hope that I can perform come game time."

  • Bound for Rio

  • Badminton Derek Wong (men's singles), Liang Xiaoyu (women's singles)

    Rowing Saiyidah Aisyah (women's single sculls)

    Sailing Colin Cheng (men's Laser), Elizabeth Yin (women's Laser Radial), Justin Liu and Denise Lim (mixed Nacra 17), Jovina Choo and Amanda Ng (women's 470), Griselda Khng and Sara Tan (women's 49er FX), Leonard Ong (men's RS:X)

    Shooting Jasmine Ser (women's 50m rifle three positions, 10m air rifle), Teo Shun Xie (women's 25m pistol, 10m air pistol).

    Swimming Joseph Schooling (men's 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly), Quah Zheng Wen (men's 100m backstroke, 100m and 200m butterfly).

    Table tennis Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu (women's singles, team), Zhou Yihan (women's team), Gao Ning and Chen Feng (men's singles).

    Athletics will have at least one male and one female representative, while swimming will have at least one more female swimmer, with confirmation expected in July.

The next few weeks of competition will be crucial for the paddlers as they aim to improve their world rankings, which would be crucial in determining seedings for both the singles and team events.

Feng and Co are currently No. 4 on the International Table Tennis Federation's Olympic team ranking. Maintaining that - at least - is critical in order to avoid top teams like China and Japan until the latter stages.

Said Feng, who has three medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics: "We still have two months to go. I'll use this time to make sure everything is as well prepared as possible, so that I can go into the Olympics fully ready for the challenge that awaits."

Chef de mission Low Teo Ping, however, was bullish of what the contingent - which currently has eight with prior Olympic experience - can accomplish. Of the 21, 13 are debutants, while Feng and team-mate Gao Ning will be making their third straight appearance.

Rather than look only towards table tennis and star swimmer Joseph Schooling to deliver, Low said sailing and shooting can also surprise.

He said: "On paper, this contingent going to Rio looks rather impressive. It augurs well that we have about a third of them with previous Olympic experience.

"Other than swimming and table tennis, sports like sailing and shooting have every chance to rise to the occasion too."

The SNOC committee also gave in-principle endorsement for athletes still awaiting confirmation or invitation from their respective international federations.

At least one more female swimmer will be entered on a universality place, awarded if either gender fails to qualify a swimmer on 'A' or 'B' timings. Singapore, however, has previously qualified swimmers on 'B' timings and is expected to do the same this time in July.

Athletics will also have at least one male and one female representative. Marathoner Neo Jie Shi met a qualifying standard set by the world athletics governing body by finishing among the top 10 of a Gold Label event (she finished 10th in the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon), and is awaiting confirmation from the International Association of Athletics Federations next month.

This would mean at least 24 athletes will compete in Rio, one more than the contingent at the last Games in London.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline '21 Get nod for Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe